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distinction. In the first we find Peter anxiously desirous. to follow Jesus, though his Master assured him he could not do so then; and on Peter persisting in his resolution to go with him, our Lord predicts his fall. In the second the prediction follows the vehement protestation of Peter, in consequence of what Jesus bad said. “All ye shall be offended because of me this night.” In the first also, there is no mention of Peter adding any thing after our Lord's declaration ; but in the second, we find him, as if grieved in spirit at the bare mention of his being offended at his Lord, and denying him, speaking vehemently, and asserting, "If I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee in any wise."
And as there were two predictions distinct from each other, so there appears to be two distinct fulfilments. Thus the Evangelist John recounts in the chapter before us three denials by Peter, which evidently occurred at very short intervals, and near the fire in the palace of the High Priest; and it was after the last of these that he went out, and that the cock first crew. If likewise, as we suppose, “the other disciple” mentioned in the narrative, who went in with Peter, was John himself, then he only recounts those denials by Peter, which he must have heard, as he also was standing by the fire. It appears as if on the first suspicion being roused by the “ damsel who kept the door,” that Peter was “one of this man's disciples;” one and another had immediately followed up the accusation ; and Peter after denying that he knew Jesus, retired to the porch, probably to escape further importunity, and “immediately," as St. Mark tells us, - the cock crew.”
Now these three denials appear to be reckoned in the narrative of the other Evangelists as one, seeing they årose from a succession of questions put to the Apostle at the same time. The second denial narrated by them occurred at the porch, where Peter had retired. And though Mark speaks of another maid who saw him in the porch, and Luke of another man (@repos), who asked him the question whether he was one of Jesus' disciples-yet it is to be observed that Mark mentions the maid as imparting her suspicions to those around, not directly asking the question herself; and in consequence of what she said, it is probable that one of the men standing by interrogated him as to his knowledge of Jesus.
After the second denial, as recounted by Mark, Peter appears to have entered again into the palace of the High Priest, perhaps to set at rest any suspicion that he had retired from a consciousness of being implicated with Jesus. And there he once more, in the presence of his enemies, denied his Master; and then it was that “the Lord turned and looked upon Peter,” when with fearful imprecations he declared “I know not the man.”
John therefore mentions three declarations of Peter, which though made at one time, were yet distinct, as the fulfilment of the prediction he himself records, connected with the first crowing of the cock; while Mark on the other hand, who specifically mentions the prediction in which our Lord speaks of the cock crowing twice, considers these denials mentioned by John as one, inasmuch as they were so in point of time, while the addition of the other two completed the fulfilment of that prophecy which he relates—" Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice."
But let us now reflect on some particulars connected with this affecting history of Peter: and in doing so, let us not think that the conduct of Peter on this occasion was an extraordinary manifestation of the weakness and the wickedness of the human heart. Had any of the other disciples been placed in his situation, it is more than probable they would have done as he did. The fact that they all forsook Jesus and fled, leads to the not uncertain conclusion that had they been similarly tried, they also would have similarly fallen. Peter was permitted to enter into temptation and fall, not because he was more compassed with infirmity, or more sinful than the rest of the disciples, but to be a sign unto them, and that when he was removed out of the snare of the devil, he might "strengthen his brethren."
Who among us will dare to lay his hand upon his heart and say, "Had I been in Peter's place, I should not have denied my Lord.” If any of us are inclined to hazard the assertion, I answer that the very readiness to do so, proves a similarity of mind with the apostle, which in him ended in his terrible fall, and which in you, would probably
, issue in the same, were you to be left to make proof of your resolution, as he was.
But notice particularly the apostle's conduct. First his culpable rashness. Notwithstanding his Master's caution, he persisted in declaring that he was ready to die with him. And though once warned of his fall, he had the hardihood a second time to make the same declaration, with still greater vehemence of manner. He had not yet learned the folly of trusting to himself: he had not yet been taught the whole lesson of his utter weakness. Though on a former occasion, when beginning to sink in the waters, as he thought to walk on them to meet Jesus, he had a sharp experience of his weakness; yet did he need line upon line, and precept upon precept, ere he became fully aware of the necessity of “glorying in his infirmities, that the power of Christ might rest upon him," that he had no power of himself to do any thing as of himself, but that his sufficiency was of God, “who alone could make his strength perfect in his servant's weakness.”
But his temerity was still farther manifested, not only by his continuing to insist on his own power of enduring any thing for his Master's sake, but also by his thrusting himself into that very situation, where his resolution was sure to be put to the severest test. Notwithstanding the twice-repeated warning, “Thou shalt deny me,"—the apostle, with unsanctified boldness, rushes into the very midst of temptation. In the garden he neglected his Master's advice, “ Pray, that ye enter not into temptation." And with the neglect of the injunction, there came the readiness to fall into temptation. Perhaps in the secret of his own heart, he congratulated himself on the boldness which he displayed above the other disciples, in that while they fled, he actually followed Jesus to the high priest's hall.
Alas! “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” This evil principle, which influenced Peter, has been the master sin which ever since the Fall has cursed mankind. We pride ourselves in our own strength, we think we can walk alone, when “it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps." Though the Bible tells us “our hearts are deceitful above all things,” yet we confidently presume on their suggestions as if they could never lead us astray. Though the Bible assures us that
wise to do evil, but to do good bave no understanding,” that "evil communications corrupt good manners,”—yet are we ever found rushing into every imaginable temptation, as if we bore a charmed life about with us, instead of one which is so tender and fragile, that the atmosphere of temptation never fails to blight and injure it. Alas! we forget that we are in an enemy's land, that many watch for our halting; that a lion is in our path; and the spiritual pride which leads us to forget these things, is that which opens the joints of our armour, and exposes us to the fiery darts of the wicked. And what a mockery is it in the morning to pray, “Lead us not into temptation," when before the evening shades close around us, we have voluntarily trodden the enchanted ground of the world's pleasures, or thrust ourselves, uncalled for, into the chilling influence of its hatred and its frowns.
But again, observe that Peter returned a second time into the hall, though already the warning sound had reached his ears, that his Master's words were fulfilling. It may be that he resolved with hardihood to brave out his denial for the sake of his own safety-and if so, how fearfully does it illustrate the danger of giving way to temptation, or leaning upon the broken reed of our own strength. Or it may be, that he was yet so deceived as to suppose that had he the opportunity again, he might recover from the snare into which he had fallen. Ah, beloved, the beginning of sin is like the letting out of water, and woe, woe to that man, who leaning on his own resolution, and forgetting the arm of the Lord, proceeds heedlessly in his own way. His adversary, the devil, is desirous to sift him as wheat; and many will be the bitter tears poured forth, many a sigh of anguish will break forth from his bosom, before he is drawn back from the "slippery place” of temptation, and his goings established in God's ways.
Peter rushed with rapid step along the deceitful road of his own sinful self-dependence. Who can tell the toil, the labour, the pain, the agony of